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Date: Sat, 13 Jul 1996 23:09:04 -0400
From: Debbie Gemmill
Subject: International Conference: Milestones

I was pleased to be asked to facilitate a session at the conference for families whose loss had been five or more years ago. I was given the opportunity to do the session however I wanted: a panel presentation, or a presentation (yuk, lecture) of my own. I opted for what I would want as a parent whose child died several years ago: a safe place to talk about all the issues that still remain or arise. Even though many of us are still active in our local support groups, our focus at those meetings is on how to help new parents. Where then, and to whom do we talk about our babies and our issues?

I don't think the planners expected the kind of turn out this session got. I think there were probably 100 or more seats but before we even began the room was packed with people sitting on the floor and standing along the walls. After a brief introduction, there was no need to break the ice. Hands were waving, heads were nodding in agreement, tissues were passed, and there was a whole lot of hugging.

The biggest issue, at least the one that kept ringing out to me as I listened to the sharing, was the fear that our babies have been somehow forgotten...slowly, unintentionally, as people get on with their own lives. Certainly not forgotten by us, and that seems to be the problem. We remember, and we want others to remember, but how to encourage that without sounding like--well, we're not quite normal for wanting the remembering, especially after all these years. Parents shared practical and sensitive ideas for how to accomplish this. There were grandparents in the group as well, who offered their special viewpoint. The sharing was so tender and I understand that after our all-too-brief meeting, people got together and continued discussion.

A recently bereaved SIDS couple was in that session, despite my suggestion that it might not be the best place for them. They recently told me that one of the first things they did upon returning home from the conference was to tell their family that they didn't want theirs to be one of those families who had forgotten their baby. Perhaps it was not such a bad place for them to be, after all.

Yes, the room was too small, and the time too brief, but the kindness and compassion that I experienced during that hour traveled home with me. It won't be hard to find a place to keep it.

Debbie Gemmill

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